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Product Lifecycle
  1. Manufacturing
  2. Product Use
  3. Disposal
  4. Molecular Breakdown
  5. Biodegradation

Degradation Process for Plastic Additives

From manufacture to mulch, explore the distinct phases of our oxo-biodegradable planned-life plastic additives.

Phase 1: Manufacturing

Oxo-biodegradable plastics have two active lifecycles. By incorporating Willow Ridge Plastic additives into the converters manufacturing of an end product, the first lifecycle starts. Even though the first lifecycle has begun, there is little visual evidence that the oxo-biodegradation process is occurring. Using XRF Spectroscopy, WRP Labs can identify specific tracers in a plastic product to confirm the presence of an additive.

FT-IR spectroscopy can show initially there are no changes in the polymer and molecular structure of the plastic. The graph below displays an FT-IR reading of a plastic product with an inclusion of 3% WRP additive, showing there is no molecular change. This confirms the initial structural integrity of the product from the moment it is produced with WRP additives.

Phase 1: Manufacturing

Phase 2: Product Use

Phase two is considered part of the first active lifecycle and includes transportation from manufacturer, storage, shelf life, and engineered life of an end product. The physical properties of the end product has not been compromised in this phase.

WRP is available to help engineer an oxo-biodegradable additive that meets the requirement of your end product. By letting us know the duration of your phase 2 lifespan, WRP custom designs one of our additives to meet your specific needs. The FT-IR spectroscopy can confirm that the oxo-biodegradation process is working in phase 2.

The graph below shows the molecular structure of a bag that has been made with an oxo-biodegradable additive after 1 year.
 

Phase 2: Product Use

Phase 3: Disposal

Once phase 2 has been completed and the plastic product disposed of, that signals the start of phase 3 and the end of the first active lifecycle. After disposal, signs of degradation become visible to the naked eye. Signs of degradation are yellowing, embrittlement, and loss of structural integrity. These are the results of oxidation.

FT-IR Spectroscopy picks up the inclusion of Oxygen in the polymer structure. Tensile and elongation testing exhibits the loss of structural integrity of the end product.

Phase 3: Disposal

Phase 4: Molecular Breakdown

Phase 4 is the start of the second active lifecycle.  Microorganisms attach themselves onto the surface of a plastic product.  Without the inclusion of oxygen, this would not be possible and plastic would stay free of microorganism.  In phase 4, oxygen is highly present in the polymer structure of plastic.  With the presence of oxygen, due to the inclusion of WRP oxo-biodegradable additives, these microorganisms can not only attach themselves to the plastic, but can also begin to colonize the surface.  The plastic then becomes the fuel source for these organisms to multiply.

Phase 4: Molecular Breakdown

Phase 5: Biodegradation

Phase 5 is the culmination of bioactivity and biodegradation. The microbes metabolize using oxygen sites on the changed polymer structures. Once the sites have been consumed, new oxygen sites will form on the shortened polymer chain.  This cycle will repeat for the entire duration of the biodegradation cycle. The expended by-products can be used as food and fuel in other micro-ecosystems.

A carbon dioxide evolution test confirms that biodegradation has occurred. This type of testing is set up to simulate multiple disposal methods.  By calculating the total quantity of carbon dioxide produced, the amount of biodegradation is determined.

Phase 5: Biodegradation